UFC 268 is headlined by a pair of title fights — both rematches — including the highly anticipated sequels to Kamaru Usman vs. Colby Covington and Rose Namajunas vs. Zhang Weili. Lineups lock at 6 p.m. ET on Saturday.
We have built out a full player-projection model using the FantasyLabs tools to help put together some winning DFS lineups in UFC. You can use our optimizer to build optimal lineups using these projections.
The model, created by our own Sean Koerner, is based on 10,000 simulations of all the fights. He then pulled the DraftKings score from each fight to create floor, median and ceiling projections for every fighter. Here is how he defined each projection:
- Floor: Fighter has an 80% chance of going over this score, 20% chance of going under
- Median: Fighter has a 50% chance of going over this score, 50% chance of going under
- Ceiling: Fighter has a 20% chance of going over this score, 80% chance of going under
These should give us a better sense as to which fighters we should target based upon the game type — maximizing ceiling in GPPs, for example.
You can check out the projections for every fighter on Saturday’s card below.
UFC DFS Model
The Easy Chalk
Kamaru Usman ($9,300)
Usman is the clear leader across all projection categories for his main event rematch with Colby Covington ($6,900). This includes PTS/Sal Projection, where he leads the fighter in second place (who happens to be Covington) by more than half a point per dollar.
Usman averages a ridiculous 122.2 DraftKings points per contest in his perfect 14 fight UFC career. Five of those victories have come by stoppage — including last time against Covington. He scored 130 DraftKings points that night in a fourth round knockout.
His scoring is partially due to the large number of five-round fights he’s been in — his last seven have either been title fights or main events. Still, he only has one fight since 2017 under 100 DraftKings points, with a full half of those fights going over 125 points. He fights with an extremely fantasy-friendly style, attempting takedowns and strikes at well-above average rates, as well as knocking down opponents at almost twice the promotional average level.
Betting markets like Usman here too. He opened as a -250 favorite, but you can’t find him better than -300 as of Friday afternoon. His most likely win condition — and the fight’s most likely outcome — is a stoppage, which is +120 at BetMGM.
Usman is the strongest play on the slate by a long shot. While Covington has a punchers chance, Usman is a better all-around fighter by a wide margin. He’ll be hard to avoid for all contest types.
Zhang Weili ($8,000)
We have another favorite in a title-fight rematch on Saturday, with Zhang looking to regain her belt from Rose Namajunas ($8,200.) Zhang was a -220 favorite heading into their first matchup in April, before suffering a shocking first round knockout loss to “Thug Rose.” She’ll look to avenge her first defeat since her pro debut here.
Zhang opened as a pick’em or slight underdog at most sportsbooks, before quickly being bet to a -120 favorite. It’s not a huge amount of line movement, but it explains why Zhang is favored again but costs less than her opponent on DraftKings. Zhang should be favored here too. Her loss to Rose — while not lucky — was on the flukier side.
Brief detour into Bayesian probability (my favorite) here. We need to think about what’s more likely to be true: Zhang is the better fighter (defined however you want) given that she suffered a quick knockout loss, or that markets were entirely wrong about these two. Given that Zhang was roughly 70% implied to win the first time out, our priors on Zhang being the better fighter should be fairly high. Freak knockouts aren’t all that unusual, so we should still believe Zhang to be more likely to win here.
Essentially all we need to do to find value in five round fights is pick the correct winner. Either the fight stops early (which is good) or the winner gets to win for 60% more time (also good.) Especially when the favored fighter is cheaper, it’s hard for them to fail from a salary considered standpoint.
Zhang is one of three fighters (Usman and Covington) we have projected over 10 DraftKings points per $1,000 in salary.
Ian Garry ($9,500)
Garry is an impressive 7-0 prospect coming out of Ireland. He’s making his UFC debut on the undercard Saturday, taking on 9-5 Jordan Williams ($6,700) who is 0-2 in the UFC and likely to be cut after being sacrificed to “The Future.”
Garry is the second-biggest favorite on the card, and has the second-highest Median projection for DraftKings scoring. He’s finished five of his seven pre-UFC bouts, all for UK based promotion Cage Warriors, where he’s their 170-pound champion. Cage Warriors has some high-level competition, Garry never fought anybody with a losing record (or any debuting professionals.) He also defeated 17-6 Jack Grant for the title. If this is a step up in competition for Garry, it’s not by much.
Garry should be popular in DFS contests, but well worth it. He’s -155 to win inside the distance, and will be looking to put on a show in his UFC debut against the scuffling Williams.
The Upside Plays
Shane Burgos ($9,000)
Burgos is taking on Billy Quarantillo in featherweight action on Saturday’s main card. He’s a -200 favorite, and has the fourth-highest ceiling projection in our models, despite being the seventh-most expensive fighter.
Burgos throws a ridiculous amount of volume, with his 72.4 strikes attempted per round being nearly double the UFC average of 42. What’s more than double the UFC average is his 0.24 knockdowns per round (UFC average is just over 0.1) This leads to some impressive fantasy scores, with Burgos going over 80 DraftKings points in all of his UFC wins.
Betting markets have this fight as somewhat likely (-130) to go to a decision. However, Burgos’ extreme volume makes up for some of the lack of stoppage equity in this one. I wouldn’t look to Burgos in cash games (there’s heavier favorites at similar prices) but he’s a solid options for tournaments.
The Value Play
Gian Villante ($7,900)
Villante is the cheaper fighter in this one against Chris Barnett ($8,300) despite being a slight favorite (-135 or so.) That’s because this fight opened as a pick’em/Barnett slightly favored, before sharp money came in on Villante.
I’ve been making it a point to incorporate line movement into my process for DFS for two reasons. First, since DraftKings salaries are released before much of the betting money comes in, we can get fighters at a discount relative to their likelihood of winning. Villante is a -135 favorite, but costs the equivalent of a +110 underdog.
Second, line movement is a good indicator of the sharp side of the fight. Betting markets are much more liquid than MMA DFS contests, so they trend to efficiency much better. We don’t have public betting data available on our UFC Odds page, but tracking the lines is a good proxy.
Anyway, Villante is a solid pick here. At his salary, nearly any win instantly makes him a value for DraftKings contests. Besides, he’s the much better fighter.
Here’s what I had to say about this fight in the UFC 268 Best Bets column on Action Network:
“Barnett is not a UFC-caliber fighter. His last pre-UFC fight came against a debuting professional. I’m fairly certain that the UFC offers last-minute replacement fighters a guaranteed (or near-guaranteed) second bout as an incentive to step up for these fights. That’s what we have with Villante this weekend. Villante is no world-beater, going 7-10 in his UFC career with four of those wins being via knockout. With that said, he still has seven more UFC wins than Barnett likely ever will. Villante will almost surely be cut if he loses this bout, so the stakes are extra high for him.”
Villante is an extremely strong cash game play, and makes some sense for tournaments as well.
The Contrarian Approach
Billy Quarantillo ($7,200)
With betting markets and our models (see above) favoring Burgos, Quarantillo is sure to be overlooked in DFS contests this weekend. However, he just might be the better play.
Burgos is coming off of two straight losses, including a knockout in his last fight. Quarantillo on the other hand, is 4-1 to start his UFC career, with the only loss coming by way of decision to Gavin Tucker. He rebounded from that with a dominant 3rd round knockout that netted 141 DraftKings points (at a salary of only $7,700 that time.)
Quarantillo lands more strikes per minute, while absorbing fewer than Burgos (per UFC Stats). He’s also more well rounded, averaging 1.6 takedowns per 15 minutes to Burgos’s 0.43. Burgos is likely the better overall striker here, and certainly the more powerful one. So Quarantillo is risky here, but if he can get the fight to the ground he has a decided advantage.
The models are on Burgos here, but Quarantillo is my preferred option. It might be recency bias, but I like Quarantillo for tournaments, where he’s sure to be low-owned.
The Swing Fight
Justin Gaethje ($8,900) and Michael Chandler ($7,300)
The powerful Justin Gaethje is taking on Michael Chandler in a possible lightweight title eliminator to open the main card. We have Gaethje behind only Usman in Ceiling projections on the slate. While both men are coming off losses, they’re at the hands of current and former UFC champions Khabib Nurmagomedov (Gaethje) and Charles Oliveira (Chandler.)
Gaethje has never scored less than 97 DraftKings points in any fight he’s won, and is a -225 favorite in this one. This fight projects to be a slugfest too, with (T)KO being the most likely win condition at -175. Both men are accomplished wrestlers who prefer to use their wrestling defensively. According to my dataset, neither has ever landed a UFC takedown.
Gaethje has won all of his UFC fights by knockout. That’s also the method by which Chandler’s last four losses have come. Gaethje is a solid play here, particularly for tournaments. Chandler has also won his last three by knockout, including in Bellator. Gaethje is durable, but absorbs an alarming 8.37 strikes per minute and was knocked out by Dustin Poirier and Eddie Alvarez at the start of his UFC career.
It’s highly likely that one of these men win in violent fashion here. Our models prefer Gaethje, but whomever wins here is very likely to be in the tournament winning lineup by the end of the night.
Photo Credit: Buda Mendes/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images
Pictured above: UFC fighter Kamaru Usman